This op-ed originally appeared in Talking Influence as part of the WTF Series.

In influencer marketing, there are no benevolent bots.

If you’re in the world of digital, you’re likely no stranger to the rampant issue of fraud. Fraudulent views, impressions, you name it – your campaigns have likely fallen victim to it at some point in time.

In influencer marketing, fraud has become an increasingly sophisticated challenge – 68% of marketers reported experiencing influencer fraud in 2020, and we know this number is on the rise. Why? As influencer marketing has seen exponential growth over the last several years – set to grow to $13.8 billion this year – bad actors have also been steadily taking hold, and have been deceiving smart brands, marketers, and influencers along the way. And in an industry where trust, authenticity, and transparency are so vital to the success of all parties (and really, the legitimacy of the entire ecosystem), bots are quite simply a problem that we cannot afford to ignore.

Not your friendly chatbot…

Flashback a few years ago and brands were dazzled by influencer accounts with massive followings and millions of likes. And unfortunately, some influencers took advantage, and purposefully manipulated the system by buying bots.

Today, we know the infatuation with follower count is slowly fading away, with quality, relevance, and a meaningful alignment of values increasingly becoming more important when brands and influencers enter into business partnerships. This being said, brands still want to know they’re reaching the audience that they’re paying for. 

When we talk about bots in influencer marketing, we’re not talking about the friendly chatbots that answer your questions and give you that scarily good styling advice on your favorite shopping site. We’re talking about the bots that massively inflate follower counts and leave marketers spending millions on campaigns that are meant to reach real people. And when your campaigns aren’t reaching as many real people as you thought they were, having any handle on true performance (the holy grail of influencer marketing today) is a real kick in the teeth. 

So, what are bots?

Ultimately, bots are followers that don’t exhibit human behavior – while today’s bots are pretty darn good at displaying very human-like behavior, there is a randomness to the ways that real humans behave that is nearly impossible to replicate on a large scale. 

Today, there are three main types of bots that dominate the social media sphere. And remember folks, there are no good bots in this story!

Now knowing the different types of bots, it’s clear that not all bots are created equal when it comes to their sophistication and ability to deceive. But we also know that as digital evolves, bots will too, and so marketers need to get real about the problem. 

Don’t ignore the problem 

Luckily for the industry, there is smarter, better, more advanced technology out there that is helping the industry get ahead of the issue of influencer fraud and bots. But, like most problems, acknowledgment is key – marketers simply can no longer stick their heads in the sand, especially when influencer budgets are growing at a scale and pace they are today. 

To protect and encourage even more growth in the industry, vetting influencers and their audiences for bots is a crucial and necessary part of the process. So, what’s the secret behind some of the best technology out there today? The key is to look beyond the surface – meaning, looking beyond an influencer’s immediate followers. 

Sophisticated technology is leveraging adaptive machine learning to closely analyse behavior at the follower level, the followers’ followers level, and even a level deeper at the followers’ followers’ followers. Going this deep on the audience helps identify all of the fraudulent (but dangerously human-like) behaviors of bot accounts that we addressed above, like level of activity and engagement. These AI-driven technologies are evolving in real-time to bot behavior, which makes them essential to the future success and growth of influencer marketing.

If you’re not yet convinced, think about this for a second…

Imagine you’re spending $1,000 per post on an influencer with two million followers…and you find out that out of those two million followers, only one million are actually real humans. Probably wouldn’t make you feel too good about that $1,000 a post price tag, right? If you knew this information upfront before agreeing on rates, you could negotiate better based on real human followers, and spend those incremental marketing dollars elsewhere, like on another influencer with one million followers. 

Let’s be clear, bot detection is not about finding a way to pay influencers less; it’s about accessing more value out of influencer marketing and building more trust across all stakeholders involved. 

So, hear this: before you invest your marketing dollars in that seemingly perfect influencer partnership, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting the full picture.

This article originally appeared in MediaPost and is authored by our SVP of Sales & Marketing, Tina Scala.

“Authenticity” is one of the most painfully overused buzzwords in our industry. And unfortunately overuse often comes at the sacrifice of meaning and value. Despite this, authenticity has never been more significant to our jobs in marketing today, and more importantly, to our relationships – our relationships with one another, with brands and businesses, and with our own communities of influential people in our lives. Over the last year, we’ve all dealt with our own very personal experiences of the global pandemic, but what we likely share is a feeling of craving what’s “real” more than we ever have before. And we’re also a lot more critical in evaluating what doesn’t feel real, or what doesn’t seem to fit within our lives or values. 

This “awakening” in consumers couldn’t be more relevant to the conversation around influencer marketing, an industry that has seen an undeniable surge over the last 12 months –  68% of marketers plan to use influencer marketing for paid or unpaid campaigns this year, with this number expected to increase in 2022 to 72.5%. But as it has grown with such speed and force, influencer marketing’s ability to create meaningful, authentic relationships between brands, creators and influencers, and consumers has been challenged. From mismatched brand partnerships to the ever-more complex issue of fraud, there are a number of reasons that along the incredible growth path, doubts have also been cast.

In May, my colleague and Chief Technology Officer at Koalifyed, Charles Hu, joined in a conversation with longtime industry veteran and Chief Communications Officer of P&G Beauty, Grooming & Health, Kelly Vanasse, to honestly and openly address both the challenges and opportunities brands face in influencer marketing today. At the heart of the discussion was how influencers not only have the capacity to command mass attention, but they can drive real intention – meaning, a sustained relationship with a brand, brand advocacy, purchase loyalty, or whatever result a business deems most important.  

To drive intention, authenticity must be a focus. And, technology can serve a crucial role in helping brands understand and act on the new rules of authenticity that exist today.

Here’s how:

Winning the Battle Against Bots

As digital has rapidly accelerated through COVID-19, there’s been an unprecedented rise in the amount of bot activity on the internet and across social media. This has created major problems for marketers and influencers alike – in 2020, 68% of marketers reported that they had experienced influencer fraud according to Influencer Marketing Hub’s annual benchmark report.

Fraud is an area of vulnerability for even the most diligent influencer or brand – bots attach without influencers knowing – and it therefore undermines the principles of authenticity, transparency and trusting relationships that are vital to making the ecosystem work.

A year ago, there may have been technologies that could help monitor bot activity and begin to separate bots from real followers. But today, technology – and artificial intelligence, more specifically – can learn to identify even the most sophisticated human-like bot behavior by looking not just at one bot follower, but at their followers and their followers’ followers. This type of sophistication is needed in order for brands to truly understand the value of their marketing dollar when reaching audiences through influencers. And better yet, it can also help brands and influencers quantify how engaged different pockets of their real audiences are, which gives all stakeholders a better chance to make an authentic message land.

Putting Relationship Building at the Center:

Authenticity accounts for 92% of trust in a brand. In influencer marketing, authenticity starts in the relationship that gets built between brands and their creator and influencer partners. While influencer marketing still required a highly personal and human approach, technology can actually help make the most of the relationships – from working more collaboratively on campaigns, to sharing feedback in real-time, to transparently tracking campaign results.

This is a far better place to be than the archaic methods of sending documents back and forth, working in countless spreadsheets, or going through thousands of emails, because more time is spent on developing a meaningful relationship and true business partnership with a creator. When the relationships get put at the center, consumers can see and feel it – because it helps create AUTHETNIC content and stories that consumers want and can buy into.

Ensuring Transparency Goes Both Ways

As brands and marketers, it’s our job to forge meaningful relationships with creators and influencers, enabling them to represent their truest, most authentic selves to their audiences. Trusted partnerships develop when there is transparency in the relationship from the start.

Beyond bot detection, there are a lot of other areas of influencer marketing that keep brands and influencers up at night – contracts, proof of performance – and the word that makes us all cringe, compliance. However, compliance ultimately exists to make sure all stakeholders are aligned on the expectations of the relationship. And when work relies heavily on collaboration between people rather than automation or robots, it becomes even more important. Technology can help alleviate any compliance risks and ensure everyone has access to the information they need at any point of an influencer campaign.  

With the new capabilities of technology at our fingertips, we can deliver better brand experiences that follow the new rules of authenticity today. And we can continue to iterate and learn by combining the best technology has to offer with the best we as humans also have to offer.

On May 25th and 26th, the ANA will host its third annual Influencer Marketing Conference virtually, which will showcase creative campaigns across varying sectors and budgets. Koalifyed will join 500 marketing leaders and top influencer experts from major brands, agencies, and platforms to share the latest on measurement, innovation, new trends, and more.

Koalifyed Session:

Tuesday, May 25th at 3:20PM ET


Influencer marketing has seen an undeniable surge over the last 12 months, as people continue to crave engaging brand experiences and digital content that feels connected to their own lives. But a lot has also been said about the, still, untapped potential of influencer marketing, and how the industry needs to focus on turning mass attention into real intention – and this starts with trust and credibility. In this session, led by emerging influencer marketing platform, Koalifyed, and P&G Beauty Chief Communications Officer and industry thought leader, Kelly Vanasse, we’ll dig into how the right strategy, the right partnerships and the right technology that can elevate and strengthen relationships across all stakeholders can ultimately drive more intention and outcomes from influencer marketing.


Charles Hu, CTO & Partner, Koalifyed

Kelly Vanasse, CCO/SVP, P&G Beauty, Grooming & Health

Check out the rest of the agenda here.

This article originally appeared in PR Week and Campaign.

The network says the platform allows users to quickly ink deals with influencers and weed out fraud.

Stagwell Technologies has developed the platform Koalifyed in collaboration with consumer marketing firm MMI Agency that it says offers a unified workspace focused on social media influencer campaigns. 

With brands expected to spend tens of billions of dollars on influencer marketing in the coming years, Stagwell Technologies CTO Charles Hu said the network saw an opportunity to double down on the trend. 

“The options available today simply have not evolved with the needs of our industry and its users,” said Hu.

The product allows brand marketers to identify popular and powerful influencers, draft and execute contracts with them and measure a campaign’s effectiveness, the holding company said. It starts with social media creators joining Koalifyed’s website to get discovered by brands.

Using commercialized government intelligence agency technology, the software identifies and weeds out fraud, with the holding company saying it detects 10 times more bots than competitive services. It also provides an authenticity score to rate online discussions. 

After a brand is ready to hire an influencer, Koalifyed’s secure online feature for contracts allows the review, edit and approval of documents. Stagwell said signing contracts happens five times faster than outside of the platform.

Brands can also obtain data on campaign performance and comply with government requirements, and creators can quickly give brands insights on campaign performance. 

“Brands are looking beyond follower counts to understand how engaged influencers’ audiences are and whether there’s an authentic fit with the creator,” Hu said. He added they want to see shared values, cultures and lifestyles.

Nearly 300 creators are using the platform, such as Houston lifestyle and fashion blogger Jordyn Rush.

Agency holding company Stagwell Group took a strategic investment in Toronto-based technology company Hubub in late 2016 to make it the backbone of Stagwell Technologies.

Stagwell and MDC Partners struck a deal to combine late last year. Former Burson-Marsteller CEO, Microsoft executive and Clinton adviser Mark Penn would be chairman and CEO of the merged network. 

Koalifyed, an influencer marketing platform for social-first brands, today announced the release of its end-to-end solution for modern influencer campaign management. Koalifyed enables brands to centrally manage all parts of the influencer ecosystem – from identification, contract management and creative execution, to payment and performance tracking. This model creates efficiencies and deeper collaboration between in-house marketing teams, agencies and creators to come together in one workspace.

The vision behind Koalifyed is what makes it different from other platforms in the marketplace – it is built to continuously evolve with the ever-changing influencer industry, providing more effective ways to strengthen relationships with creators, incorporate more transparent data and analytics, and ensure security and operational efficiencies are at the core. And no matter the campaign size, it’s designed to address critical issues like real fraud detection, ROI measurement and manual content reviews – with the end goal of more effective, results-driven content. This approach offers unique benefits:

With the end-to-end nature of the platform, Koalifyed can minimize the time historically spent on manual-intensive tasks, enabling brands to shift their focus to building stronger relationships with their influencer communities and driving more powerful content.

Koalifyed was developed by Stagwell Technologies in collaboration with leading consumer marketing agency MMI Agency.

“As new social platforms emerge and influencers take up a greater share of marketing budgets, we saw an opportunity to create an innovative solution that allows brands to gain efficiencies while showing the business value of influencer marketing,” said Charles Hu, Partner & CTO at Stagwell Technologies. “The options available today simply have not evolved with the needs of our industry and its users. Koalifyed facilitates and enhances the relationships between brand and creator, and it’s built to iterate, learn and grow with the changing needs of all stakeholders.”

Today there are nearly 300 active creators on the platform and that number is quickly growing. Active user and Houston Lifestyle and Fashion Blogger, Jordyn Rush said, “Having access to technology like Koalifyed isn’t just about making my everyday tasks as a creator faster and more seamless, it’s also about having access to opportunities that can become real business partnerships.”

“This space is growing and changing, and I see myself as an increasingly important marketing medium for brands. Like many others in the creator community, I take what I do very seriously, and the more that platforms like Koalifyed can help me start conversations with brands that recognize my expertise and my value, the better the ecosystem will be for all parties.”

Koalifyed is now available to all brands and offers solutions for influencer marketing budgets of all sizes. Creators can also sign up to join the Koalifyed creator database to get discovered by brands via Koalifyed’s website. To learn more, sign up to be a part of Koalifyed’s creator database or request a demo, visit